Because I don’t want these posts to just be about the books I reach for first, I tried to stretch myself this month with some different genres! We’ve got a contemporary fiction written by an activist in India, a hard sci-fi survival story and a dystopian graphic novel.
“I Kick and I Fly” by Ruchira Gupta
Heera is fourteen, and well aware of the probable fate awaiting her. Like the vast majority of girls in her community, she expects to be sold into prostitution to help pay off her family’s debt. She attempts to stay in school to avoid this but is expelled for standing up to a bully. Just as Heera’s father is making plans to sell her, the woman owner of a youth hostel approaches with another offer. Not only does she pay their debt, but she also offers to teach Heera kung fu so that she can compete in tournaments for cash prizes. As Heera learns to use her body in martial arts, she’s filled with determination to save others who can only expect their bodies to be used. Written by an activist who founded an organization working to end sex trafficking, this is an eye-opening and insightful debut.
“Star Splitter” by Matthew J. Kirby
Jessica hasn’t seen her parents in six years, but she’s about to be reunited with them. They left for an interstellar scientific mission fourteen light-years away, but instead of coming back home to Earth, Jessica has to leave everything behind to join them. It’s the year 2199, and travel by teleportation is totally normal. Your body is essentially cloned and printed in the new location, while the old body is simultaneously destroyed. Yet this time, something goes very wrong. Instead of landing on the space station with her parents, Jessica wakes up in a ship that has crashed on the surface of the post-apocalyptic planet they’re studying. The empty ship is covered in bloody handprints, the machines and controls are dead, and just outside the ship are freshly dug graves. Now Jessica has to figure out what happened while trying to keep herself alive. You don’t often see science fiction like this in YA, with believable science and thought-provoking ethical questions. There’s also no romance in this one, which can be a refreshing change.
“Danger and Other Unknown Risks” by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
In the year 2000, the world ended. Sort of. Instead of technology failing like everyone expected, magic invaded the world and fractured it into different realms. While humans have a little control over magic, it seems to go rogue more often than not. Marguerite has been raised by her Uncle Bernard who lived through the cataclysm, and he has a plan to stabilize the world’s magic. She and her talking dog Daisy have been training and preparing for their mission of gathering the magical items Uncle Bernard needs, and they confidently set off on their quest. But saving the world isn’t nearly as straightforward as they expected. This dystopian graphic novel has a delightful blend of humor and action. Also, the talking dog is an absurdly fluffy Chow Chow—I’m pretty sure you should read it for that reason alone.